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Tuesday, June 21, 2005

Arms Sales Fuelling Poverty: Claim

Sydney Morning Herald -- Arms exports from G8 nations such as Britain and the United States to poor, conflict-ridden countries are fuelling poverty and human rights abuses, Amnesty International and Oxfam have claimed.

As foreign ministers from the G8 industrialised countries prepared to meet in London on Thursday and Friday, Amnesty and Oxfam urged them to end the problem by adopting a proposed international arms trade treaty.

Amnesty and Oxfam said if such a treaty was made international and legally binding it could establish universal standards regarding arms exports and end up saving lives.

"Each year hundreds of thousands of people are killed, tortured, raped and displaced through the misuse of arms," said Amnesty Secretary General Irene Khan.

"How can G8 commitments to end poverty and injustice be taken seriously if some of the very same governments are undermining peace and stability by deliberately approving arms transfers to repressive regimes, regions of extreme conflict or countries who can ill afford them?" she said in a statement.
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The foreign ministers will meet ahead of a summit by the leaders of the G8 countries, Britain, the United States, Japan, Russia, Canada, France, Italy and Germany, on July 6 to 8 in Scotland.

Amnesty, Oxfam and another human rights group, the International Action Network on Small Arms, said their new report shows G8 countries are still supplying military equipment, weapons and munitions to destinations such as Sudan, Burma, the Republic of Congo, Colombia and the Philippines, where they contribute to gross violations of human rights.

"This research shows that, as well as the G8 being responsible for more than 80 per cent of the world's arms exports, they persist in selling weapons that oppress the world's poorest and more vulnerable people. G8 foreign ministers meeting this week must back the Arms Trade Treaty and agree a swift process to make it happen," said Oxfam director Barbara Stocking.

The human rights groups said their report exposes a series of loopholes and weaknesses in arms export controls that are common across G8 countries.

The report's claims included:

- Britain: From January 2003 to June 2004, Britain licensed arms exports to countries with serious human rights concerns, including Colombia, Saudi Arabia, Nepal, Israel and Indonesia. Britain also has increasingly used "open licences" that allow companies to make multiple shipments without adequate scrutiny.

- Canada: Military exports to countries involved in armed conflict or human rights abuse, including light armoured vehicles and helicopters to Saudi Arabia and aircraft engines and hand guns to the Philippines.

- France: Exports in the UN category of "bombs, grenades, ammunition, mines and other" to countries subject to European Union arms embargoes, such as Burma and Sudan.

- Germany: The use of German components in military equipment destined for countries involved in serious human rights violations, such as German engines incorporated into military vehicles that have ended up in Burma.

- Italy: A loophole in Italian law allowing large quantities of so-called "civilian firearms" to be exported to countries suffering gross human rights abuses, such as Colombia, the Republic of Congo and China.

- Russia: Exports of heavy weaponry, including combat aircraft, to states whose forces have committed abuses such as Ethiopia, Algeria and Uganda.

- United States: Substantial US military aid to states carrying out persistent human rights violations, including Pakistan, Nepal and Israel.

- Japan: Exports of small arms and light weapons to countries with poor human rights records, such as the Philippines.

Photo
June 14, 2005 -- A patrol car of the Ethiopian special forces drives through Addis Ababa.(AFP/File/Marco Longari)

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